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Awhile vs. A While—When to Use Each Phrase

As you’ve probably noticed, the only difference in the spelling of these two phrases is the single space in “a while.” However, there are a few things to remember when it comes to their meaning and the type of word.

Milena Lazova
Milena Lazova

Sounding precisely the same, yet with different meanings, these two phrases shouldn’t be used interchangeably. But, worry not as awhile vs. a while is a common grammar confusion with a simple solution.

Awhile vs. a while

As you’ve probably noticed, the only difference in the spelling of these two phrases is the single space in “a while.” However, there are a few things to remember when it comes to their meaning and the type of word.

Awhile” means “for a period of time,” usually a short amount of time, and it’s used as an adverb modifying verbs.

Example:

She waited awhile for the taxi.

A while,” on the other hand, means “a period of time,” and it’s a noun phrase.

Example:

After a while, she came back.

Awhile or a while—common uses & phrases

The only time you can use “awhile” is when you want to say “for a while” while modifying a verb. In the example above, “awhile” modifies the verb “waited,” so it functions as an adverb.

In all other cases, we use “a while.” You can find it in many phrases such as “it’s been a while,” “it takes quite a while,” “a while ago,” and “after a while.”

“It’s been a while,” meaning

This is one of the most common phrases, including “a while,” meaning it has been a long time since something happened.

Example:

It’s been a while since we last talked.

“It takes quite a while,” meaning

We use this phrase when we want to say that something takes a long time to happen, whether that’s minutes, hours, or years, depending on the situation.

Example:

Writing the essay may take quite a while.

“A while ago” meaning

The meaning of this phrase is “some time ago.”

Example:

She was here a while ago.

“After a while” meaning

This phrase means after some time has passed.

Example:

After a while, she agreed with me.

“For a while” or “for awhile”

It’s “for a while” because prepositions like “for” can follow only nouns or pronouns.

Example:

I sat down for a while.
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Milena Lazova

I'm an ESL teacher with over 7 years of experience in providing original content. I really like writing educational articles which may help others learn some aspects of English.


Milena Lazova

I'm an ESL teacher with over 7 years of experience in providing original content. I really like writing educational articles which may help others learn some aspects of English.

Valentina Dordevic

Hello! My name is Valentina. Book digesting is my specialty. I transform book ideas into easy-to-follow summaries, articles, study guides, reviews, essays, analyses, slides, or e-books.

Beth Taylor

Hello! My name is Beth. I'm from France. I'm a French and English native speaker and I really like writing.